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NFL cancels Hall of Fame game

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COLLEGE PARK, Ga. (AP) — The NFL canceled its Hall of Fame game

between St. Louis and Chicago on Thursday despite owners voting in

favor of a tentative deal to end the lockout, pending player

approval.

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The Rams and Bears originally were scheduled to open their training

camps this weekend and play in the game to open the preseason

schedule on Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio. But NFL Commissioner Roger

Goodell said the game had to be dropped because the Rams and Bears

wouldn’t have ample time to prepare.

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“The time is just too short,” he said. “Unfortunately, we will not

be there to play the game there this year.”

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Goodell added that the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will go on

as planned on Aug. 6. This year’s class of inductees includes Deion

Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe and Richard

Dent.

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame said in a statement Thursday night

that it was “disappointed” by the decision, which will have “a

significant adverse economic impact” on both the hall and city of

Canton. The hall added that it appreciated “the effort that was

made on our behalf by the league and players right up until the

last minute,” and that the long-term effects of a new agreement

would be beneficial to all involved.

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The game would have been televised nationally on NBC. Although it’s

an exhibition, it was a major draw last year, boosted by an

intriguing matchup between the always popular Dallas Cowboys and

former receiver Terrell Owens’ Cincinnati Bengals.

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That game was the highest-rated TV show of the week among the

advertiser-coveted demographic of adults aged 18-49 and a close

second overall to the season finale of “The Bachelorette” with 11.4

million viewers.

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“We will be working with the NFL to determine how to complete our

preseason package,” NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus said in

a statement.

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The hall said it would issue full ticket refunds for fans who

already purchased seats for the game.

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The Bears were supposed to open camp Friday, but team president Ted

Phillips said it was going to be difficult for the team to prepare

to play the game because of the delay in getting back to

work.

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“Because we have Richard Dent being enshrined, it’s disappointing

from that standpoint,” Phillips said, “but probably the most fair

given the circumstances of the offseason that every team starts

training camp on the same day.”

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AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this

report.

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